Trayvon Martin would be 18 today; his mother still aims to change ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws

On the night before what would have been her son Trayvon Martin’s 18th birthday, Sybrina Fulton was focused on the full schedule ahead of her. The foundation she and Trayvon’s father, Tracy Martin, started in their son’s memory will hold its first fundraising dinner on Sunday. On Saturday, there will be an “I Am Trayvon Martin – Day of Remembrance peace walk” near the Miami neighborhood where the teen lived, went to school, and dreamed of learning to fly airplanes.

“I have my times,” Fulton told theGrio in an exclusive interview Monday. “Right now it’s a pretty good time.” Right now meant that night, that moment. But Fulton’s voice breaks as she mentions her son, who was killed 240 miles from Miami, in Sanford, Florida a year ago February 26th.

“You know his birthday is tomorrow, so I’m just trying to make it through that.”

A close friend of the family said Fulton is keeping busy. “Her focus and energy are on planning this weekend and looking for the community’s support. She is really engaged. This is really near and dear to her heart.” She wants to make sure no other family is forced to share her grief, the friend says. “This is 24-7 for her.”

In Sanford, supporters of the family – college students and local community leaders – held a prayer vigil outside the courthouse where lawyers for the man who shot and killed Martin – George Zimmerman – attended a hearing in the case. Zimmerman’s attorneys were requesting the trial date be pushed back from its June 10 schedule; a request Judge Debra Nelson denied.

At the vigil, the supporters sang “Happy Birthday” to the slain teen, holding black and white balloons.

Meanwhile, in Miami, Fulton says the Trayvon Martin Foundation will advocate for crime victims; especially the young ones. There will be a mentoring program, a scholarship, and “something to teach kids about profiling.”

Fulton and an arm of the foundation will also push for changes to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law – a shorthand for the portion of the state’s self-defense statute, which allows defendants in a “deadly force” case to ask a judge for criminal and civil immunity based on their “reasonable belief” that they were in imminent danger, and therefore had no duty to retreat from their attacker.

Zimmerman, 29, is claiming traditional self-defense to second degree murder charges, saying Martin attacked him. And while his lawyers have not yet filed their request for a self-defense immunity hearing, and Zimmerman’s lawyer, Mark O’Mara told theGrio :”‘Stand Your Ground’ has no application to this case,” Martin’s family, and the foundation, have zeroed in on Florida Statute 776.013, calling for changes that will make it harder to get immunity in fatal shooting cases where the shooter could have walked away.

“We definitely need to work on that,” Fulton said of the law; “to clarify it, so that people understand exactly what it’s all about.”

The family is hoping for passage of a Trayvon Martin Amendment in Florida that as Fulton describes it , “says you can’t pursue a person and then claim that you were standing your ground.”